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WASTE NOT - WANT NOT


I had the great fortune of growing up with a set of grandparents who lived just a block away ... and a set of surrogate grandparents who lived right across the street!  My Grandmother Schuster was a really good cook and what I remember most about her kitchen is that she had a dutch oven built in to her stove and it had something simmering away in it ... most of the time.  Grandma died about the time crockpots became popular, but she would have loved that trend.

Mrs. Harrison was an incredible cook and she knew everything about preserving food.  In fact, all the women in my childhood neighborhood canned all summer long.  When it was sauerkraut making time, you could smell it on every block!

My mother was frugal, but Grandma Schuster and Mrs. Harrison were even more frugal.  Nothing was ever wasted, and nothing in the garden at the end of the season was ever wasted.  Mixed vegetable relishes took care of all those vegetables.  Green tomatoes that didn't have a chance of ripening were turned into pickles and chutneys.   My grandmother used them to make mincemeat for pies.

I cook for one most of the time, so to say that I had a crisper filled with vegetables that needed to be used ... didn't mean that I had lots to deal with.  Nonetheless, I didn't want nice farmers market produce to be wasted.   So began my favorite vegetable stew preparation.  It happens at least one time a year ... sometimes more!


Not very pretty, but awfully tasty!  I started my preparation by cleaning and chopping everything.  Simple enough.  Yes, that is an apple that I included! Even though the apple will cook down much more than the vegetables, the sweet flavor stands out.  In the left over use of this combination ... the sweetness is important.


I had a half red onion and just a couple baby Bella mushrooms.  I wanted the intense flavor from caramelizing those, so I scalded them in melted butter then let them slowly cook util they caramelized.


While the onion and mushrooms were cooking, I chopped the remaining ingredients into medium (but bite size) chunks.  I cut the corn off the cob and sliced the little cabbage into inch thick slices.



I layered the vegetables in a 1 1/2 quart crock pot by putting sliced carrots on the bottom.  They need to cook at a hotter temperature.  Then the squash, peppers, cabbage, corn and apple ... then finally, the caramelized onion and mushrooms with all the pan drippings ... on the top.  I added just a cup of hot water so the vegetables steamed instead of stewing.  I like crisp tender veges!

Use the high setting and everything hits the crisp tender stage in about 2 hours.  The apple will cook away!



This pretty vege stew is delicious with a nice slice of warm bread.  It freezes well for a quick side dish later on.  My favorite way to deal with the left overs is to drain all the liquid from it, then top it with my favorite vinaigrette and refrigerate!  You cannot beat it as a cold salad.  Sweet, crunchy and lovely as a cold side dish.

I'll share this with a couple of my favorite blog parties, so make sure you check my sidebar for the links!







Soup for the Soul ... and the Freezer!


One of my Pinterest boards is named “Soup for the Soul”, and I named it that because I enjoy soups that have substance to them!  No watery clear broth for me!  I like noodles and vegetables and dumplings in my soups!  Add cream to it, and I like it even more!
Work was extra hectic this past week!  A “consultant” had been sent in to help us with something.  Needless to say, I found her to be more of an “insultant” … offering little help, and plenty of accusations.  By the time Saturday rolled around, I needed the day off in the biggest way!

Lots of yard work was waiting for me, but my energy level didn’t match that!  In order to accomplish something significant, I decided to make soup for the freezer.  I worked with squash all last weekend and I still had some to use.  The ingredients for Creamy Italian Zucchini Soup went in the Instant Pot!  A roasted chicken carcass from the freezer went in a crockpot.  After 3 hours of making rich broth, I transformed that broth into Brown Rice and Mushroom Chicken Soup!  Chopping, sautéing and finishing the soups was the perfect amount of relaxation!

I roasted a whole chicken this past week and threw the carcass in the freezer.  The seasoning for the bird was a dried blend of manchego cheese and mushrooms.  I had a nice piece of the skin with all the seasonings smeared on it, so I added it to the pot.  The original seasoning for the chicken was the foundation for the soup.  The rest of the ingredients can be adjusted to whatever you have on hand and what you like!  Soups for the Soul are eclectic creations!

Brown Rice and Mushroom Chicken Soup!

1 stalk of celery, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
Chicken removed from the stewed carcass
1 cup of brown rice, uncooked
1 Tablespoon of mushroom bouillon base
Several grinds of peppercorns
A dash of salt

If you don’t have a chicken carcass to simmer in the crockpot, use 4 cups of packaged vegetable or chicken broth.  Cook the chicken carcass in 4 cups of water for 3 hours.  Remove the chicken, bones and skin and remove the meat from the bones, so you can add it back to the soup pot.  When the broth is ready, sauté the celery and onions in a drizzle of olive oil and add them to the broth. Add the mushrooms, chicken meat and brown rice to the crockpot and let the soup cook on high temperature until the rice is tender.  This will probably take 3 hours.  Finish the soup by adding the mushroom bouillon base, salt and pepper … in the last hour of cooking. 
You can serve this soup immediately or freeze it.  When you are ready to serve it, add a little cream to it and top each serving with goat cheese crumbles and savory croutons.
Caesar salad is perfect to serve with this soup and for a heavier meal, make grilled cheese sandwiches using a couple varieties of cheese for extra flavor.  I like to sprinkle my grilled cheese with a little garlic or onion powder.

Now, let’s talk zucchini!  A week ago, one of my favorite farmer’s market vendors gave me a bushel plus … of crooked neck yellow squash and zucchini squash.  I froze most of it, turned some of the yellow squash into pie filling (like pumpkin), but still had plenty left in the fridge a week later!  Zucchini will take on the flavor of whatever you add to it.  That is why it is so good in Zucchini Bread!  You can even make an apple pie with it!  That’s right.  Use plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg, and it will taste just like apple pie filling!
Zucchini is filled with nutrients … lots of things we need to stay healthy. It is so nutrient rich that just a cup of soup gives us a big boost!
Save the pie for later and make a batch of Cream of Zucchini Soup … Italian style.  I love having a pot of soup simmering all day … especially on a cold winter day.  For the purpose of putting soups away in the freezer, the Instant Pot is a godsend!  It would be easy to make a few soups on a Saturday … because it only takes about an hour for each batch!



Creamy Italian Zucchini Soup

1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 medium to large zucchini, chopped
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon Paul Prudhomme Vegetable seasoning

Set the IP on sauté and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Add the onion, carrot and squash and stir quickly to coat the veges in oil.  Let them sauté for just a couple minutes, long enough to add a little ‘scar’ to them!  Add 2 – 3 cups of water to the pot and cook on the ‘soup’ setting for 30 minutes.  Let the steam release naturally.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Add 1 cup of whole milk, the dust and julienned or chopped basil leaves.  Stir in the herbs and seasoning and let the soup simmer a few more minutes.


This soup freezes nicely. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight when you are ready to serve it.  Add a dollop of sour cream and additional chopped basil to each serving.  Garlic cheesy bread is perfect to serve with this!  For a heavier meal, a panini made with ham, salami and provolone cheese would be an excellent addition!






Oh, My Goodness!



Oh, my goodness!  You will not believe the summer I've had.  In May, I started a new job in a town that is on the other side of the Mississippi River ... from where I live!  You may have read about the Mississippi rising well above flood stage because of all the rain.  By the middle of June, in order to get to work, I was driving a highway that was cut down to one lane because the water had backed up over the road.  Eventually the road was closed and the bridge over the river was closed.  I ended up having a two-hour commute to and from work ... so I was driving 4 hours a day!  I did that for almost two months.

Needless to say, that really kept me from doing all the things I love to do in the summer.  As I look back, though, there were some great foodie highlights and a few nice family events.

My daughter is doing food demonstrations at the Murphysboro Farmers Market.  That is our little hometown and just a few miles from where we live.  Check out the videos of her demos on her special blog site Rooted in Foods.   Every other Saturday, she spends her morning at the Farmers Market, and she certainly has made new friends!


After all the years I've been cooking, I have actually been introduced to some new things at the little Farmers Market!  This cone shaped cabbage is called 'Caraflex".  It is also called arrowhead cabbage ... but it doesn't matter what it is called ... it is so good!  The cabbage is more loosely packed and more tender than our more familiar cabbage.  I think the flavor is a little sweeter, too.  It was delicious simply steamed and served with an easy cheese sauce.  My favorite cheese sauce remains the one that is a little Velveeta, milk and butter.  No need to thicken.   I'd love to find one of these cabbages at Christmastime!  I can think of all kinds of ways to dress it up to resemble a tree!


I didn't even think about getting out the canner this summer!  Everything I have have stored for later use has been put in the freezer!  I love beets and I especially love beets that have been intensified with orange!  I roasted these beets, added orange juice and orange zest ... ate a few and froze the rest.  You can take them right out of the freezer, pop them in the oven (or microwave) and they are delicious!


Everything in this Italian blend of vegetables came from the Farmers Market!  Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and green beans and all the herbs, too!  I sprinkled oregano, basil, thyme and some garlic over the veges and roasted them.  Into vac packs ... into the freezer ... and I'll have a wonderful combination for Minestrone or any other Italian soup!  These vegetables are also delicious in a cream sauce ... mixed with cooked pasta and baked in a yummy casserole!


Miss Phoebe loves hot peppers!  When I saw a big bag of jalepenos at a roadside vegetable stand, I grabbed them.  We stuffed them with a cheese combination and roasted them on the BBQ grill!  They were scrumptious.  I mixed cream cheese, goat  cheese and cheddar ... stuffed them and placed them in a special pepper rack ... on the grill!



If you have never eaten carrots right out of the ground ... you've missed something.  I scrubbed these carrots, but didn't peel them.  The flavor is fantastic and we all know that you lose lots of nutrients when you peel them.  I roasted the carrots drizzled with olive oil and honey ... and sprinkled with shredded basil.  These were so good ... I made a couple more batches and froze them.  My plan is to turn them into delicious cream of carrot soup!



This picture of a little tabletop display on my front porch says it all!  Families ... Everything I do, I do for my family!  I'll share this post with a couple parties!  Make sure you click through to see more!






Kale Times Two!


KALE #ONE!

Stir-fried Kale with Pork


My hometown (Murphysboro, IL) has a reinvented farmers market that is going to be wonderful!  A group of very dedicated farm folks are doing a good job getting it started!

One of the vendors has fantastic kale and the sweetest red onions right now.  That made me want to share!  I've been eating kale for years ... before it was popular!  I'm a 21-year cancer survivor and my oncologist told me to eat lots of greens!  I've done that ... so much so ... the rest of the family thought I was crazy!

Today, I bought more kale, but I had a little bit left from last week ... so here is what I did.

I simply stir fried it with one of the little onions.  I let the onions start to caramelize, then removed it from the skillet.

My plan for this kale was to package it, freeze it and have it later for a quick lunch or supper.  My ingredients were simple ... kale, the onion, rice noodles and left-over roast pork.  The pork is very well seasoned with Paul Prudhomme's pork seasoning.  I didn't use any other seasoning on the kale. 



I let the greens cool, then quickly prepared a few rice noodles to add to the portions.  Chopped pork, kale/onions, and noodles went right in a FoodSaver bag.  Sealed and frozen!  I'll enjoy it later.  It is easily reheated in the microwave for a minute or so, or on the stove with a little water added.  So easy! 



KALE #TWO!

Kale Salad with Lemon Pomegranate Dressing


Fresh, sweet kale makes a really good salad.  This one holds up to refrigeration for a couple days and is actually better 'the next day'!

You can see all the ingredients, but here is what you need.

4 to 5 cups chopped kale
1 - 2 cups chopped broccoli
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup of sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1 carrot shredded or chopped
½ cup chopped sweet onion
¼ cup raisins or dried cranberries

I used raisins this time and it is important to tell you that my raisins had been soaking in sherry for a couple weeks!  I found a dried up containers of raisins, so I just put them in a jar and covered them with sherry!  That makes this salad ... and everything else I use them for ... much better!



Don't the ingredients look pretty with the dressing?





The ingredients for the dressing just need to be combined by shaking them in a jar!

1/4 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup of pomegranate vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish mustard
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey


Toss the salad and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to serve!



I'll share this post with a couple blog parties, so make sure you click through to see the other posts, too!



Phoebe's Easter Tablescape!

Oh my goodness!  Phoebe asked if she could set and decorate the table for Easter.  Of course, I said YES!  She told me she had some pink flowers to use and something else.  I told her I would get out all the totes filled with 'stuff' and she could decorate!  That is the way we did it.


Phoebe brought this little grey fox to add to the table.  She told me her friend said a fox would be good for Easter!  She also brought this white milk glass vase that she bought at our favorite collectible shop last summer!  The silk flowers she brought to put inside are actually a bouquet that we gave her after a dance recital!  The first time Phoebe scribbled with a crayon ... I knew she had artistic talent.  This is developing in her own time and in her own fashion, but I'm delighted that tablescaping is part of it.  She enjoys staging photographs!


So .... here we go!  I'm just going to post pictures and few words!
Phoebe took plenty of pictures and we had a blast!




Often times, our centerpiece is actually an end piece.  There are just four of us at a big long table, so we enjoy doing that.


Here's Phoebe's whole table!  At one point she did ask where we were going to put the food, since there was no room in the middle of the table!  That was easy!



Enjoy these elements of the table!




Phoebe thought our tiny baskets needed to be filled, so she made sure each one had a leaf, flowers or a curled ribbon!



Here's a look at the place setting ... shiny spot and all!




We totally failed to photograph our food!  Here's the menu and there were two stars!  The fried artichoke hearts and the German Chocolate Pie that Nicole made!





I'll be sharing with a couple blog parties, so make sure you click through to see the other posts.  Hope your Easter was wonderful!


Easter Fireplace Mantel

I decorate our dining room fireplace mantel for every special meal!  It just becomes an extension of the table decor.  I've done this for years and folks seem to enjoy looking, so I'll keep doing it.  Memorial Day is the last decorating until autumn pumpkins, because we don't use the dining room much in the summer!  We eat outside!  You'll see that post in upcoming weeks, but for now ... here is a little more Easter!


I've mentioned my favorite collectible shop in many posts.  Our friends in Union County, Illinois worked diligently to raise money to restore an old store in the little town of Cobden.  They are members of the Union County Historical and Genealogy Society, and one side of the store is an incredible museum ... and the other side is the collectible shop that supports all their efforts.  Most recently, they purchased another building and are using it to store all their genealogy archives, have special collection exhibits and have classes and lectures.  This little collectible shop is doing a fantastic job for them.  We donate to the shop, but we buy plenty and our shiny mantel eggs and garland came from that little shop!


I embellished the garland with strands of sheer ribbon in a variety of colors!  I love the way it looks!  A little bit shabby, but the ribbon makes it fancy enough to blend well with the shiny eggs!

I'm sharing this post with a couple parties, so make sure you visit my list on my sidebar so you can hop to the parties!

Halo Bunny Easter!


My Halo Bunny Easter tablescape was built around this painting that I found at Kirklands.  As I shopped that day, I found something at Pier 1 that was perfect and a couple weeks later, I found bunnies at Tuesday Morning.  The remaining elements came from my closets and cabinets!


I was so surprised to find these straw bunnies in coral, yellow and sage green ... and of course I had a bag of plastic Easter eggs that matched those colors.



My place setting is a mixture of many things ... Pioneer Woman dinner plates atop Walmart place mats; Fostoria stemmed glasses from the 1980s; Cambridge flatware in perfect colors;  Pier 1 salad plates with the cutest bunny and squirrel!








This tablescape is all about SPRING with bright colors and flowers.  I'll share with a couple blog parties, so make sure you click through to see other party-goers!  Happy Spring!

The Warmest Italian Chicken



I live in Southern Illinois and in the spring and fall, we can have a 75 degree day ... then a 40 degree day!  Today, it is cold when it should be warm, so it is a perfect day for a "one-potter".  My husband was the king of one-potters!  That was his favorite way to prepare comfort food and probably his favorite to eat!  He loved this.

There are two things that make this recipe better than any other time I've prepared it.  I used bread crumbs made with a couple stale Hawaiian (sweet) slider buns, and I used imported cherry tomatoes.


The recipe for Italian Chicken with Peas, Potatoes and Tomatoes is easy.  You begin with simple ingredients including 4 thin chicken breast portions; 1 can of stewed, diced or whole tomatoes; a few tiny yellow potatoes; and a handful of frozen green peas.  I used dried Italian spices, fresh dill, and fresh thyme.


You simply begin by mixing and egg and some water, dipping the chicken in it, then dredging the chicken in bread crumbs mixed with a couple tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs.  Gently fry them in olive oil.  Remove them from the skillet and add the tomatoes with their liquid, another can full of water, the potatoes, a big sprig of dill and a couple sprigs of thyme.  Bring that to a simmer, put the lid on and cook until the potatoes are done.  Then you add the chicken back to the skillet, add the frozen peas, put the lid back on and simmer another ten minutes.  After turning off the burner, the final step is to put a piece of provolone cheese on each breast, replace the lid and let the heat melt the cheese.


It is delicious.  I'll share with a couple blog parties so make sure you click through to see other posts.



Mary Queen of Scots Dinner Menu Booklet

Grandma Debbie's Christmas 2018

Grandma's Blue & Green Pupkins!

Autumn at Grandma Debbie's